Today we’re taking a look at online defamation examples to get a better idea of what actually constitutes defamation online.
Online Defamation Examples: What Constitutes Online Defamation?
Sometimes the lines between defamation and criticism can be a little blurry, particularly if you are the subject of that defamation. That’s why today we’re going to take a closer look at some examples of online defamation.
First, let’s quickly recap what defamation is.
When we talk about defamation we are talking about both slander and libel. Slander is a false and harmful statement that is spoken where libel is a statement that is made in print.
We aren’t going to take a look at the more detailed definition of each of these types of defamation today, but if you need a little more clarification, look back at these posts and you’ll find the explanation you’re looking for:
- Suing for Slander: Key Points You Need to Understand
- Defamation, Slander Or Libel: What’s the Difference Between the Two?
- Defamation Law: What Does the Law Say About Personal Defamation?
While it’s simple enough to give an explanation of the different types of defamation, it can be a little trickier when dealing with real-life examples, so let’s look at some real-life examples…
This Would Be Considered Libel
So what would be considered libel?
Jan is an online blogger and she uses her online blog to share local neighborhood gossip. Unfortunately, Jan doesn’t fact check the things that she posts before she posts them. One day a new family moves into the neighborhood and because they dress a certain way and seem to have a lot of money, she assumes that they are dealing drugs. Jan posts on her blog that the new neighbors in her neighborhood are drug dealers and that she is angry about the neighborhood going “downhill”. Now, as it happens, the new neighbors own a new bakery downtown, but when word of Jan’s post gets out within the neighborhood, the new neighbors start receiving harassing phone calls, their children are shunned by other neighborhood children, and they regularly wake up to their home having been toilet papered and egged. The cost of cleaning up this mess is adding up for the new neighbors and because of the rumors going around, their bakery is failing.
In this situation, Jan had no evidence that her new neighbors were dealing drugs. In fact, she knew nothing about her new neighbors at all but her comments ruined her new neighbor’s lives.
In this situation, because Jan posted her comments on her blog and she wrote them in a way that would lead others to assume that they were true and those comments resulted in harm to her neighbors’ reputation, she would be guilty of defamation.
This Would Be Considered Slander
So, what constitutes slander? Let’s use the example above but instead of writing a post on her blog, Jan films a video where she talks about her new neighbors being drug dealers. Again, let’s assume that Jan’s new neighbors are not drug dealers and that the family simply owns a new bakery in town. So, because Jan’s video statement is false and the new neighbors are not drug dealers and their reputation has been ruined by Jan’s rumors. This would be a case of slander.
This Would Not Be Considered Libel
Now, let’s look at the first example again, only this time let’s change a little bit about the situation…
Jan has written a blog post about her new neighbors in which she writes that they are drug dealers and that she hates to see her neighborhood going downhill. This blog post is written seven months after the neighbors move into the neighborhood and a few weeks after the new neighbors were arrested by local police when an undercover operation caught them trying to sell drugs to neighborhood teens. The new neighbors were then convicted.
In this situation, because what Jan is posting on her blog is true and has been evidenced by the arrest and conviction of the new neighbors by local police, it would not be considered to be libel.
This Would Not Be Considered Slander
Again, let’s reference the same example. Assuming that Jan has posted a video in which she talks about her neighborhood going downhill because her new neighbors are drug dealers. This video is based on the fact that the neighbors have been arrested by local police and convicted of possession with the intent to distribute.
Now, because this situation described by Jan is true – her new neighbors have been proven to be the unsavory characters that Jan said they were and it has been proven by officials, Jan cannot be convicted of defamation.
What About Opinion?
There is some gray area when it comes to opinion. That is, may people ask whether they can be sued for defamation if the video or post that they make explicitly states that “this is my personal opinion”.
Just adding “in my opinion” does not protect you from defamation suits and whether or not your statement is considered defamatory is largely dependent upon the context of each situation. Basically, when it comes to opinion, the waters can get a little muddy and it’s always best to consult a defamation attorney to find out where you stand.
Do Any Of These Online Defamation Examples Sound Familiar?
If you are currently experiencing online defamation or if you suspect that you are being defamed, Weidner Law can help. To book a consultation with our legal team, just call 727-954-8752.